So the Fish Said...

Whoever you are, now I place my hand upon you, that you be my poem, I whisper with my lips close to your ear.

- Walt Whitman

Meet the Fish

I want to get a pet duck and keep it in the bathtub.
I am addicted to chap stick and altoids.
I am freakishly flexible.

World's Most Beautiful Child


World's Most Handsome Child


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Clive Owen

Clive Owen
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My New Obsession

Do you.... Freecycle? I just signed up yesterday, and I am so entranced that I can't seem to look away. I imagine it is the same way some people feel about Twitter (which I still fail to understand). I refresh constantly when I am at my computer, I can't stand to miss a post, etc. I am hoping the fascination will abate in a day or two as I still have children to raise who are not nearly as interested in the latest Freecycle offer as I am.

For those who don't know, Freecycle is a series of locally-focused message boards where people who have something they no longer want or need post a message offering it to the group at large and anybody who wants that item can email the owner and if all goes well they arrange to pass it along and the person who had the unwanted item gets extra storage space and the person who wanted the item gets it for free. The idea is to keep items that are still useful out of landfills, so you can post just about anything. And people do.

In the past day I've seen a couple of televisions, at least three microwaves, construction materials, furniture, mattresses, all sorts of things traded on my local Freecycle board. I've also seen half-empty packs of diapers and open bottles of vitamins, collections of half-used gallons of paint in unspecified colors, and odd collections of household items offered up as a lot. Some clothes, some toys, sort of like a huge and hugely eclectic online yard sale. Or yard give, I guess, since everything is required to be given away for free. My favorite offer so far was leftovers. Someone offered up the remains of their dinner, which they had not enjoyed and did not intend to finish, estimating that it would feed three people.

So, along with the compelling nature of things that people give away I'm also discovering that there is a great potential to trigger any social anxiety you may have. I've emailed about a couple of items in the past day, just because they would be handy to have and I wanted to see how this thing works. And sure, I understand that if you post an offer for three bikes you are likely to get a lot of emails and I may not make the cut. But when you send a very nice, exceedingly polite email expressing interest in someone's used travel Magna Doodle and get no response and somebody else get the Magna Doodle, well... it can start to make you wonder. What was wrong with my email? I said I could pick up any time! Who had a better offer than any time? Was my grammar bad? Does my email smell? Why am I not worthy of your used travel Magna Doodle? MY CHILDREN DESERVE A USED TRAVEL MAGNA DOODLE AS MUCH AS ANY OTHER CHILDREN!

It may be time for me to step away from the Freecycle.

Last Night

10:30 Beth falls asleep, exhausted from a day of child-wrangling, double pool trips, and hours in the heat working to deforest the completely overrun and embarrassing back yard. Some people claim that Beth begins immediately to snore in a loud and impressive manner, due certainly to above mentioned deforestation, but those people are dirty lying liars because Beth does not snore.

11:00 Mia turns up claiming to have had a bad dream, climbs into bed next to Chris, and falls asleep.

11:30 Chris moves to guest room to escape actual kicking and totally made up snoring.

12:00 Owen wakes up, Chris soothes back to sleep.

12:30 Owen wakes up, Chris soothes back to sleep.

2:30 Beth wakes up to answer a call of nature. Returns to bed and is shocked to discover the mysterious lump buried in the middle of the bed is her oldest child and her husband is nowhere to be found.

2:45 Beth climbs back out of bed, walks around to Chris's side, and climbs back in to escape the Kicking Feet of You Are Never Sleeping Again Doom. Beth spends the next 45 minutes trying to determine how a not-yet-five-year-old child can fill the entirety of a king sized bed.

3:30 Beth foolishly dozes off. Owen starts singing. Beth finally goes to see what his deal is and Owen demands to be taken, with blanket, to Beth's bed. Beth complies in the hope of ever getting to sleep again.

5:00 Owen finally goes back to sleep. And starts snoring. Actual snores, not the total bullshit snores of which Beth was previously falsely accused.

5:15 Beth retreats to Mia's bed. Not her favorite place to sleep, but pickings were getting mighty slim.

5:45 Beth foolishly dozes off. Owen starts to scream. Beth sprints down hall to gently quiet him before he wakes up his sister goddammit only to discover Owen sleeping peacefully when she gets there.

6:15 Beth finally goes back to sleep.

6:30 Chris gets up for the day and conducts a scavenger hunt to locate various members of his family.

7:30 Owen wakes Mia up to get her help locating their missing parents.

7:35 Beth starts mainlining coffee.


First, does everybody have the dream where your teeth fall out or are otherwise compromised, or just those of us who were terrified of our grandmother's dentures as small children?

Second, is the pool ever an acceptable provisional shower? I often run at lunchtime (the kids are going to watch tv then anyway since it is the only way to get them to sit still long enough to eat a few bites, so I figure I may as well run too), and then we usually go to the pool shortly thereafter. Now, I have showered the night before, so I'm sweaty (very, very sweaty) but not otherwise all that dirty, and it is so damned hot here lately that the two minute walk to the pool leaves me drenched in sweat anyway, so I feel foolish showering just to sweat again and then jump in the pool. So can I just go to the pool? And then can I run to the grocery store after the pool? You tell me.

Third, what do I get my five-year-old for her birthday? She has some small requests, but we are rather at a loss. She loves books and playing pretend and her iPod and has, as ever, small use for toys.

Fourth, how old were your kids the first time you left them with a non-family babysitter? (My answer is "nearly five and nearly two and a half.") (I feel quite sure this makes me abnormal.)

How Mia Got her Swim On

Many people have asked how we turned our four (oh so close to five) year old into a swimmer. And the answer is, we didn't, she did. But for those of you who are curious, here's what we did.

In January of 2009, I put three year old Mia into swim lessons once a week at the local community center. She loved the instructor and despised everything else. She cried, she screamed, she refused to get in the pool, she declined to even contemplate putting her face in the water. At the end of the class, the instructor suggested we take her back a class to one where I would get in the water with her, but I am stubborn and also feel that learning to swim is not optional and put her back in the same class again. She did slightly, ever so slightly, better.

And then it was summer, and Mia and I were talking about the neighborhood pool that is located a few feet from our house. She asked if we were going to go swim at that pool, and I foolishly told her that we could go every day all summer, if she wanted. She wanted. So we did. And at first, I didn't know why we did, because she would barely dip a toe in the baby pool. But she slowly got more comfortable. And then we got her a life jacket and let her start playing in the big pool. And then she made a friend. A friend who was two years older, and who Mia idolized, and who could swim. They played together, and when the friend wasn't there Mia worked and worked on her own, and then one day right around her fourth birthday we were all at the pool together, which meant that Mia had a dedicated adult and could play without her life jacket and all of the sudden Chris and I were staring open-mouthed in disbelief as our kid swam all on her own.

It was a rough doggy paddle, but Mia could really swim. She didn't get too much practice last summer, since it was usually just her and me and Owen and so she had to wear a life jacket. But every chance she got, she swam. And once the pool closed, we were back at the community center for twice a week classes. Rather than going down a level, she skipped a level. The classes made some small improvements in her technique, turned her doggy paddle into something more closely approaching freestyle, improved her back float, and had a big focus on water safety.

Mia talked about swim team all last summer, all fall, all winter, and all spring. So when the time came, I signed her up, and was shocked again when she jumped in and started swimming laps. Laps! In half an hour, she can cross the pool 15 times, or more. It leaves her starving and exhausted, but she loves it. And between daily coaching at swim team and daily swimming with me and Owen and her friends, she has improved incredibly this summer. She can do freestyle with side breathing. She can do a regulation backstroke. She can play Sharks and Minnows and insist on staying on the end with the teenagers rather than moving to the shallow end with the little kids. I still go nuts when she is in the middle of the pool and it is full of kids doing crazy stuff, and I restrict her probably much more than I need to, but the kid is a really excellent swimmer. You know, for not-quite-five.

So, what people really want to know, is how to make their kid an early swimmer. I dunno. What I think really helped Mia was wearing an actual life jacket rather than anything similar to water wings. That was suggested by her swim instructor, because the life jacket allows them to get a better feeling for the movements they need to actually swim, and the water wings restrict their arms so much that they never get a real feel for it. Second was just exposure. Every day all summer, twice a week the rest of the year. It allowed her to build and maintain a comfort level in the water. Third was a policy of trust but verify. Whenever possible, we let Mia give it a try. It meant hauling her sputtering out of the water fairly often early on, but we were careful to keep her away from actual danger while letting her experiment and learn. Fourth was just Mia. She was determined to swim, she loves it, and she seems to just have a natural inclination for it (in terms of attitude and interest, not talent). Finally, the difference between splashing through the water and actual swimming was definitely swim team. We happen to have a great program and amazing coaches at our neighborhood pool, and that daily work with someone who isn't Mom or Dad has made an amazing difference over the past few weeks.

People who see her swim ask if Chris and I were swimmers, if we started training her at birth, if we are already planning on college scholarships and the Olympics. I always say no, it is all Mia, and I think it is awfully premature to think of anything beyond the faint and likely-impossible dream of a ribbon higher than fifth place. (Mia comes in dead last in every race, I mean, of course she does, she's four.) But I do hope she continues to enjoy swimming, continues to want to do it, and continues to keep her competitive spirit. I think it is a great choice for her and would be happy to see her swim for years. Even if it means I spend half of every Saturday with a stop watch in my hand.